Thursday, July 30, 2015


I've finished my second major rewrite of the Punjabi love story (YEAH) and, as always, it's bitter sweet. I feel as though I need to put it away for a while, get some distance from it before I look at it with some fresh eyes for the MAJOR-MAJOR overhauls to come. As always, it's unsettling. I'm adrift with indecision. What do I do? Do I start a brand new project? Work on that Louisiana piece that's been haunting me for years? Maybe pull out the information on Kentucky ghost towns and find out what story is nibbling the edge of my brain from Creelsboro...

Or do I finally hunker down and flesh out my historical fiction, Color of Death? I'm so passionate about getting that story out there. Especially since it's a true story. And a murder mystery to boot!!! But I've been pondering this story for the better part of a week and I still haven't decided whether to rewrite it from Michael's point of view - a freed slave, teenage boy - definitely all of which I'm not. Or whether I should keep it in the form of a time travel  novel - which would allow me to keep the bit about the slave gravesites that have been covered by a university parking lot.

Or do I rewrite that pesky Dandelion Fuzz, telling the truth about EVERYTHING (see my Uhaul post), which would be a grueling, difficult rewrite and, frankly, something I'm not positive I'm up for this summer.

But the summer is quickly waning. And I am riddled with indecision. There are only so many more days of deliberation left. These are the types of things that plague my mind when I'm sitting at the pool, pretending to be a part of conversations...

If you have any thoughts, please feel free to chime in. For now, I'm off to the pool to percolate and pretend to listen.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The UHaul I Drag Behind Me

This is the post I've wanted to write ever since I signed with Jodell and recommitted to this blog. Here are the reasons for my hesitation:
First of all, it's about to get real up in here. Secondly, I've been told by every school system, etc, that I'm not allowed to talk about this because it will upset the kids. So I haven't talk about it. Here's the problem. By not talking about it, it makes me feel guilty, like I'm the one at fault. Like I've done something wrong, something of which I should be ashamed. Thirdly, this blog is supposed to be related to the working woman trying to carve out time for writing. I'm trying to make this blog relevant to all writers. However, in my personal writing journey, my Uhaul is pivotal. And I'm certain that all human beings have some type of baggage they carry on their journey. Finally, I haven't written this post because I have a family member who feels personally responsible for my Uhaul. I'm afraid to talk about it because I don't want to hurt that person. I love that person more than life itself, but I don't hold that person responsible any more than I blame God for terrorism.

Because I have finally come to the conclusion that it needs to be said, here goes nothing: I am a survivor. Specifically, I survived date rape. The significance of this is not to be taken too lightly. People who have survived date rape have trusted someone, maybe invited them into their home. In my case, I dated this person for a while, believed he was in love with me and respected my boundaries. Because he violated my trust and the basic fiber of who I was, I no longer trust easily.

People often ask me why I'm so insecure. This is why. The person who raped me told me I was beautiful one day and then wanted to put a bag over my head while he was stealing my soul. I won't go into details, but my self-esteem was raped in an instant. I don't trust people when they say they want to be my friend. I'm constantly wondering when they are going to grow tired of me, when they'll let me know that they were simply using me for something. I fear that I'm never enough.

Fast forward to becoming a gifted/talented consultant. I felt very confident and was very successful in Virginia, established quite a name for myself. I moved to Michigan and, because it wasn't understood, I lost everything, including my reputation. I won't go into detail because it still hurts, but the rumors started by the man who never even knew me made me feel violated once again.

Then I started making jewelry. I met a woman who wanted to sell my jewelry in her shop. I allowed myself to feel hopeful, giddy even. Maybe there was something I did well. Overnight, her shop closed and hundreds of dollars worth of my jewelry was gone. Not a word, nothing.

Now I've signed a contract with Jodell Sadler, a kind, brilliant, wonderful agent. People want to know why I'm not dancing in the street. It's important for people to know that, unfortunately, not everyone in this world blindly trusts. I want to. And I'm happy!!! And so excited!!! But I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm not doubting Jodell. I am doubting myself. What if my writing isn't as good as she first thought? What if she doesn't really believe in it? What if, what if, what if...

I felt as though I needed to write this so that people would understand. I am a woman of extreme faith. Think about it. I have had the unimaginable happen to me. I'm not asking for sympathy. I'm asking for compassion. I think I'm pretty amazing for subjecting myself to rejection after the ultimate rejection; for continuing to trust in others at all, even after I've found some people to be completely untrustworthy. To believe wholeheartedly in God. Because He is the reason I'm a survivor. No, not a survivor. A thriver!

So, please cut me a little slack if I apologize too much or if I'm lacking in confidence. All things considered, I'm doing pretty well. Some days my Uhaul veers off course. But, every day I hike up my big girl panties and drive down the road anyhow. Thanks for being part of my journey


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Procrastination at Its Finest

I'm not proud of this, but I thought it should be shared. I listen to bhangra while I revise my latest novel because it is set in the Punjab. And, as much as I love writing, there is something that makes me constantly procrastinate. I jump on and off Facebook, check my emails nonstop, and just about anything else that doesn't keep my butt in my chair. This particular day, I searched high and low until I found the webcam for the upstairs computer. I'm not sure why. It's not a necessity for using my upstairs office. However, it did provide hours of skyping and, as you can see, dance parties.

I'm sharing this bit of musical insanity, because I'm hoping that misery loves company. We, as writers, long for the quiet moment when we can sit at our computers with a hot cup of tea or coffee and sink into our most recent WIP. And, apparently, sing inane songs into our newly found webcams.

I hope you enjoyed this. You may now return to your writing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

You Have the Summer Off...

These are fighting words for any teacher. The summer flies by with too much to do and too little time. Plus, we don't get paid for the summer months. Most people don't know that. For me, summer is the only time I can truly devote to my writing. And there's a lot of pressure involved...

Writing in the summer is very difficult. Let's face it. The sun is shining, my most recent novel choice is beckoning. The chores that have built up all school year are taunting me, nagging at the back of my mind. And, of course, Facebook and iTunes desperately need to be updated.

Don't get me wrong. I have spent the entire school year waiting for uninterrupted hours where I could sit at my computer and simply focus on my latest work in progress. The beauty and freedom to become WRITER CATHY! And, now it is here! Let me break it down for you.

The first two weeks are spent in fighting off the Teacher hangover - residual exhaustion from dealing with the stress of late night grading and lesson planning, not to mention the nasty meanness of today's society at large. Added to that is the procrastination time - time built in to obsess over the 5 million things that need doing, while telling yourself that you've earned the right to simply read your book, sit at the pool, and/or watch Bollywood movies. (of which I've only done the latter)

Which is why, on the third week of my 'vacation', I am finally starting to make those doctor's appointments I should've made during the school year, organize the house I trashed for 9 months, work on curriculum, reconnect with friends, work on the mentorship, do something about the weight I put on, research for the story I'm writing, tutor new students, and...oh yeah...


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why the SCBWI-MI Mentorship?

Why not?
There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. When I won the SCBWI-MI Novel Mentorship in 2002 with Audrey Couloumbis, I was shocked at my good fortune. I was also beginning a journey that would change my writing life forever. Not only did I make a lifelong friend in Audrey, I learned more about writing than I could have possibly imagined. Generous with her time and expertise, Audrey helped with so much more than the one work of mine that had won the contest. She gave me titles of books and different techniques that still guide my craft today.

How do you apply? It's quite simple! You go to the registration form, follow the directions, send in your entry, and wait for the results. For the low fee of $30, the worst that will happen is that your piece will be critiqued by three of our amazing SCBWI-MI judges!

This year, in response to the great need for more diverse literature for young readers, we're hosting a Multicultural Mentorship. I am passionate about this opportunity for two reasons:
1. The desperate need for new diverse voices in our quickly changing global world.
2. The chance for new writers to gain valuable advice and the opportunity to work with an established author.

This year's mentor, Patricia Hruby Powell,is a storyteller, author, and former dancer. Her most recent picture book, Josephine, won The Coretta Scott King Book Award, Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Parent’s Choice Award, Wall Street Journal’s 10 Best Children’s Books of the Year List, and the Bologna Ragazzi Nonfiction Honor. For more information on Patricia Hruby Powell, please visit her website: And for more information on the mentorship, please visit:

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Love Affair with the Punjab

Last night everything I hoped and believed about Diljit Dosanjh turned out to be true. He was genuinely a good, kind young man. Yes, I say young man because he's two years old compared to me. And why am I putting this in a writing blog, you might ask? Because he was one of my first introductions to Punjab culture. His songs, particularly the tracks on his CD 'Sikh', were some of the first bhangra/desi sounds I heard. I fell in love with the beat, the round sound of the vowels and the rolled r's. Later, as I learned what the Pagri and Kara meant, I fell in love with the religion Diljit seemed to follow in such a devout manner. When I began writing my novel, "Leaving Home", I really wanted Diljit's music to be a part of my main character's journey into the culture. But I couldn't get a response from him. I thought maybe he was a fake.

When I met his mother and father this past December, I once again thought he was the kind of man I wanted to use as 'the voice of Punjab'. Add to that the fact that his extended American family are my favorite people on the planet. Raj, Ravinder, Happy, Harjit, Harpal, and the rest have welcomed me into their homes, into their hearts. They are my family, mere parvaar. As Diljit's fame got bigger and bigger, I started to doubt that he was still the man who sang and meant 'Gobind de Lal'. The man who seemed so passionate about the pillars of Sikhism - giving back to community, living a clean, humble life.

And then I met him. His concert was amazing. Better yet. He was humble. He seemed a bit overwhelmed by all of the people crowding to see him. He seemed irritated by all the fuss to keep people at a distance. When I gave him the pictures of his family, he seemed genuinely touched. Add to that all of the people who went out of their way to make Monica Harris and I feel like part of the Punjab community - Satvir, Nazmine, Jas, and particularly Deepak...

Along with Gurjeet, Manpreet, Jaswant, Harjinder, Gesu...and so many others...I am touched and honored to call all of you friends. The love affair that keeps me writing about the Punjab continues. Tujade mere pyare.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Faction Friction or The Monster Under the Bed

So, I have several non-fiction picture books. None of them any good. And none of them catering to the current 'faction' trend. I told Jodell about them and asked if she'd like to see them and she graciously said yes, but that they would have to be sent now-ish. Before her crazy season. Ha! I forgot about my own crazy season. And that is not the only dilemma:

1. I have a huge lack of self-esteem when it comes to writing a) non-fiction and b) picture books (and c: writing)
2. While trying to download a seemingly innocent app someone had told me about, I incurred the wrath of the great computer gods. They were further angered when I had the unmitigated gal to download a rogue Spyware app. I have sacrificed much time and energy the past five days at the alter of the Trojan and Malware, trying to purge many a deadly virus.
3. It's the end of the year (as we know it...). 'Nuff said.
4. My non-fiction picture books were not of the 'faction' variety which is the only thing worth sending these days...or so I'm told. Therefore hard revisions (of the perfectionist type) are ongoing...and going...and going...

So why don't I throw in the towel on this seemingly hopeless venture? I have a million notebooks filled with research and a bazillion non-fiction picture book ideas. Besides, I really want to make this work, and, in case you haven't heard, I don't give up very easily.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Indian Car top Carrier

So much is going on in my life right now. It was report card weekend. I had research papers to grade, lesson plans to write. Like a broken record. That's about to end. Eight days left until school is out for the summer. And then I can concentrate on my writing with no distractions.

Except Facebook and Indian movies and getting lost online doing 'research'. I revised two picture books on the Punjab today. It made me want to go back. Sigh. I'd love to teach in the Punjab or anywhere in India. But it would be hard for Kent. And my family might miss me. Eight more days. And then I'll be Author Cathy.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Bringing Amrit to America for a visit...

Is so much more difficult than I imagined. First of all, I thought that, as a natural-born citizen of the USA, I would have no problem hosting a visitor from any country in the world. Color me privileged and naïve - not a good combination.

From the minute we met, Amrit and I have been very close, as have Sandeep and myself. But Amrit and I would like to write a picture book together about the Rajasthani puppets. She has done extensive research on the craft of making the puppets, and I had an idea for a picture book while I was in Laroi for the wedding. We talked at great length about our collaboration, she sent me her research, and the rest should be easy. Should be...

For some reason, trying to get a visa for her to visit is more difficult than trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack. First, she said she needed a letter from me which I provided. But now she needs more - financial information and something to prove that we are going to be working on this project together. ARGH!

I have learned many things during this process. My greatest lesson is that Americans take much for granted. Certainly, I had to get a Visa to travel to India. But it was a simple matter of filling out paper work and sending in some money. I have other friends from India who live here who have not seen their families in over six years because the Visa process is so difficult.

Simply by an accident of birth, I am able to travel freely pretty much anywhere in the world. I truly feel, on this memorial day, that it is important to thank the men and women who have sacrificed their lives to give me so much freedom on so many different levels. Feeling blessed.

But missing my Amrit...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Straddling the Median

I've often been asked to describe what it feels like to mingle with the Punjabi culture and, if I'm being quite honest, I'm afraid to be completely honest. I mean, they are delightful, kind, generous people. But, when you venture outside of your culture, you never quite become a member of the other. You are always an outsider. It's hard. There is something inside of me that wants so badly to become a part of them. And I don't know all of the reasons. And I skirt this issue in my novel. But I need to come out with it and pray that I don't hurt the people whom I love so deeply.

Because I can see that it's not their fault. They did not ask me to become obsessed with them. They did not ask me to dress in their clothes or speak their language or try to cook their foods. And I can't begin to explain my desire to do so. On a very deep level, I feel like I am home when I am with them. Sometimes when I'm in a Punjabi gathering, I pray that God will suddenly allow me to understand Punjabi fluently so that I won't feel left out. But even when I feel left out, I'd rather be in their midst.

I'm writing this here in my blog so that I can remember to put it in my book. And as an explanation in case the book makes my exclusion by the Punjabi culture seem harsh. I realize it is my own doing - forcing myself into a group of people who never asked for my crazy gori presence. Still, it's hard when they don't ask me to sit with them at gurudwara or dance with them at the vasaikhi mela. Especially since my own 'people' look at me as an oddity for wanting something I'll never have. All I know is that, on some level, I am Punjabi and that it speaks to me. It has brought me to a rather lonely place. But it is who I am. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Mere naam Amandeep Kaur hai, te Punjabi passande hai.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Learning to Speak Desi

I'm having a difficult time with the rewrites of my latest work in progress. First, I'm running out of Punjabi words to use as titles. Secondly, I'm still wishing I could use Diljit songs, but he hasn't contacted me back giving  me permission. Finally, I don't want to work on the part that focuses on Julie before she goes to India. I want to keep reliving my trip and revise the India part. Sigh. The stuff written about her exploration of self in 'Merica is rough. I need a full day without interruption and a clear mind. Soon.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

My Author Website!

It's been interesting and a bit painful, but I finally have most of my website completed! The only thing missing is a link for published books and my testimonials from students.

I've had to work on it in the evenings while trying to grade papers and all. And, of course, it has held far more interest for me than my grading, etc. I need people to read it with a critical eye to make sure I haven't made any glaring grammatical or other errors. As with everything I do, I'm doing it while multitasking so I wasn't able to devote 100% of my attention to it. ARGH! Someday this will be my main focus. Soon???

Meanwhile, check it out:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Poopoo Platter

Aaja Bhangra Pa Laiye
Lyricist - Kumaar
Singers - Amrinder Gill, Diljit Dosanjh, Kunal Ganjawala, Navraj Hans, Sumitra Iyer, Simran Tripat, Lehmber Hussainpuri, Manak-E.

"Tenu Kothi vi pawadun,
Tenu Gaadi vi mangwadun
Teri sister de naal teri vi, Full full aish karadun
Saadi ikk waari setting ho laen de
Tension Nahi laini...
Tension Nahi laini.. Saliye, Aaja Bhangra Pa Laiye"

English Translation: "Come on, let's do bhangra."
I can never throw away anything. This (Aaja Bhangra Pa Laiye) was the Chapter Heading for the current chapter I'm rewriting in Leaving Home. Why is it here? In my blog? Each chapter of my WIP begins with a Punjabi phrase and image that are developed throughout the scene.
And, even though 'Saadi Love Story' no longer applies to the revised chapter, I can't part with it. Normally, I copy and paste all words I'm destroying and save them to a poopoo platter file in my computer. I realize that the actual term is 'Pu pu Platter'. However, the 12 year-old in me likes the humor in putting my rejected characters, scenes, and gems into a file named after fecal matter.
I was getting ready to file the above image and quote in said file when it hit me that I should share the painful process with other writers who may be able to empathize. I know they tell us to kill off the brother. And throw away the first three chapters. But do they realize that these gems were birthed without the aid of an epidural? This is natural childbirth right here. Suffice it to say, I probably have an entire hard drive filled with 'poopoo'. Yet I'm amazed at how many times I revisit it, in a panic, looking for an earlier scene or phrase I once used with a certain character. Yes, good fellows, my poopoo will live on.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Gifts My Mommy Gave Me

Since this is a blog about writing. And this is also Mother's Day. I wanted to take a moment to tell you what my mother has taught me about writing.

She taught me that you should never give up on your dreams. Life is short and beautiful. God does not intend for us to be unhappy. If your dreams make you happy, then you should pursue them at all costs.

Whenever I did not have the resources- financial or emotional- for pursuing any of my dreams my mother would move heaven and earth to help me. She has never told me that I was stupid or unreasonable. When I told her I was an African American woman, she embraced me. When I decided to become Punjabi, she dressed in Salwar-Kameez and came to Vasaikhi Melas with me.

When I locked myself in my room to write, The Land of Sneezeitchrun, a sad tale of Allergy Sufferers, she read every word and told me it was wonderful. (It sucked.)

She sat in the front row of show choir performances, clapping her hand and smiling the widest smile, planned a multicultural 50th birthday party that rivaled many weddings, and planned my daughter's wedding because I don't have a left brain.

I could go on and on with tales of unfailing support, but she also taught me to be practical and work is calling. Mom, you know you are my heart and soul. Every good thing I am today is because of you. And, the fact that I dare to write in a world that has always told me I have no time and little talent, is completely because of you. Thanks for helping me build the castles.

Kitty Cat

The Pressure of Feeding Your Soul

I spent yesterday with my beautiful daughter and her husband, as well as the rest of my amazing family, celebrating her graduation from law school. Sadly, the demons in my head were constantly gnawing away at my contentment. What were the demons?

Lesson plans. Grading papers. Recording grades. Writing the newsletter.

These are the demons that plague me every waking hour of every day. People say, "Well, at least you have your summers off." But they don't know that summers are taken up with preparing curriculum for the next year.

Here is what I wanted to be doing:
Concentrating on what people were saying to me. Not worrying about the constant monkey on my back.

Today is Mother's Day. A beautiful, sunny day. There are many things that would feed my soul today: Having lunch with my amazing, wonderful mother. Going to gurudwara and see my peeps. My YA manuscript about the Punjab. My picture book about Rajasthani puppets. Unraveling the mysteries of my own author webpage. The manuscript in google docs that is awaiting my author profile.

Instead. What am I doing for Mother's Day?
Lesson plans. Grading papers. Recording grades. Writing the newsletter.

Do I hate my life? Decidedly, NOOOOO! Do I love my students? Unconditionally!

Am I having a difficult time right now with the problem of killing off demons, while trying to feed my soul? HEEECKKKKS yeah.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Pining for the Punjab

I'm working diligently on my rewrites for "Leaving Home: A Punjabi Love Story" and it's hard because it makes me miss the place so daggone much!!! And it's very difficult to explain when people ask why I'm so in love. After all, they ask, didn't you say that you were freezing cold the entire time you were there? Didn't you say that their homes had no central heat? Didn't you have to bathe by dipping cold water out of a bucket most days? And wear smelly, filthy clothing because I didn't want to hand wash my clothes in freezing cold water.

The answer is YES. And I didn't understand what people were saying to me most of the time. And I wasn't allowed to leave the house. And I was dragged around, at the mercy of the men who lived in the home.

So what do I miss? The smiles that reached the eyes. The hands clasped together, with a bow and a, "Sat sri akal." The full-bodied hugs from complete strangers. The food and drink 'forced' upon me every time I set foot in someone's home. The private jokes that needed no shared words. The new family members. The constant honking. The constant praying and singing and dancing and loud voices raised in joy, anger, sorrow...

Feeling alive and loved. Be patient with me while I try and acclimate to my former world. After all, I am no longer my former self.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Secret Agent

Well...not really a secret! I've signed with Jodell Sadler at Sadler Children's Literary Agency!!!
I'm hoping she'll keep me very busy. I'm going to try and get on here more often than once a year. Suffice it to say that finishing up a school year, trying to finish a novel, packing up a home, and preparing the new SCBWI-MI mentorship should be enough to keep most people busy. Most people are not me...
Stay tuned!